After beating the Philadelphia Phillies by a score of 14-5 last night, the Miami Marlins are back to a game over .500 for the year. They currently sit in 3rd place in the NL East, just two games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves. The Marlins have had a surplus of young players step up and make a difference on their ball club this year. Players like Adeiny Hechavarria, Derek Dietrich, and Tom Koehler have all been pleasant surprising for this seemingly overachieving group of players. Perhaps the most dangerous and exciting part of this Marlins team is their outfield. Led by MVP-candidate Giancarlo Stanton and efficient leadoff-man Christian Yelich, the Marlins have certainly outperformed every expectations they were given through the first quarter of the season. Last night, it was the forgotten man in that formidable outfield that led the Marlins to victory.
Marcell Ozuna is just 23 years old. He never played baseball at the Triple-A level, getting called-up from the Marlins last year after having played just 10 games in Double-A Jacksonville. After receiving his call-up, Ozuna quickly showed that he belonged in the big leagues, hitting .330 in his first full month in the Majors. However, after his hot start, Ozuna came back down to earth, finishing the year with a measly .265 batting average.
Interestingly enough, a similar phenomenon seems to be taking place this season. Through his first 17 games in 2014, Ozuna hit .343. He finished April with a .310 batting average, 4 home runs, and 16 RBIs. While his power numbers and RBI totals have remained consistent in May, his batting average and on-base percentage have plummeted. Ozuna is hitting a paltry .164 this month and is reaching base in a shade less than 20% of his plate appearances.
In last night’s romp of the Phillies, Ozuna had his best game since the calendar flipped to May. Ozuna went 2 for 4 with a walk, singling home a run in the 4th to give the Marlins a 4-3 lead and hitting his first career grand slam in the 7th inning to increase his team’s lead to seven runs.
There is no doubt that Ozuna has the raw talent and ability to be an effective big-league player. However, his inconsistency and streakiness must have the Marlins worrying a bit. With another young outfielder in Triple-A waiting for his chance to shine (23-year old Jake Marisnick, ranked the 56-best prospect in baseball by MLB.com prior to the season), Marcell Ozuna has to start hitting the ball well to ensure his starting spot on this team for years to come.
Not only can Ozuna make himself an essential piece of Marlins puzzle going forward, he can also help his team succeed in 2014. Along with Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Marcell Ozuna and the Marlins outfield continue to make headlines and shatter expectations all across the baseball world.